sinecine ISSN: 1309-5838

The Emperor’s Eyes: Movies Proposed to Abdul Hamid II by the Berlin Ambassador


This article, based on films the Berlin Ambassador proposed to Abdul Hamid II in 1902, describes the place of early cinema in the political sphere. The aim is to show the relationship between the Ottoman Empire and the German Empire found in actual shots and moving images and seen from the perspective of cinematic culture. It is of special interest here that cinema fulfilled the function of propaganda in its early years. The films proposed to the Sultan by the Ambassador were shot during the German Emperor’s second trip to the Orient and had been seen by the Emperor himself. Based on the movie Seine Majestät von Bethlehem Zurückkehrend (Return of his Majesty from Bethlehem, 1899), which was included in the proposed list, this article is focused on the Kaiser’s second trip and its role in the relationship of the two empires. Perception of this trip and its possible effects are discussed. Prompted by information gathered from archived records, newspapers, and journals, the article asks questions about the role of cinema in justifying and sustaining the existence of the empires, and, within the frame of cultural material, proposes answers to the questions in an historical context. The historical relationship between cinema and politics is the focal point of the article.

Keywords: Abdul Hamid II, Wilhelm II, cinema of the empire, propaganda, second trip to the Orient.